Read on to find out how you and your kids can join Portland Backpack in making a difference.
One in five kids in Oregon experience food insecurity. And for many of these children, their school provides the necessary meals needed for them to function and thrive Monday through Friday. But what about on the weekends? That’s where nonprofit Portland Backpack comes in.
Since 2017, staff members and volunteers have been lovingly assembling brown paper sacks to donate to Portland-area children from food-insecure homes. When the children peek inside, they find a tasty, kid-approved meal, including oatmeal, mac ’n’cheese, fruit cups, granola bars and more, plus, a colorful, handmade card.
“When the pandemic began, we were providing 340 food sacks per week (and) we have grown more than two times,” says Executive Director Diane Rheos. “This is really due to the wonderful response by the public. We all seem to realize in this time of great need we want to make sure that kids are able to eat.”
Portland Backpack distributes 1,000 meals across 10 elementary schools each weekend — a recent increase of four schools — by working with an in-school coordinator who manages a food sack sign-up list. (The list is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.) This summer, the nonprofit also partnered with Portland Parks & Recreation to provide 600 weekly food sacks at five parks alongside the city’s Lunch + Play program.
Rheos says it’s easy for families to volunteer for Portland Backpack. In fact, you can make food sacks without leaving the house. The nonprofit’s website has a handy list of recommended, nutritious foods and a fool-proof packing guide. Once the bags are packed, they can be dropped off at Portland Backpack’s office in Northeast Portland.
“We would love to continue to have families packing food sacks at home,” she says. “Kids and families can also create some loving care cards to express their care and encouragement to other kids. I love when we get care cards from kids. They are often so meaningful.”For more information and how to volunteer, visit Portland Backpack.
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